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CONDITION AND PROSPECTS OF IRELANI).
Natural features of Ireland–Its advantages imperfectly developed— Character and circumstances of the people—Ignorance of the English respecting Ireland—The Conquest of England by the Normans contrasted with the imperfect subjugation of Ireland—Confiscation of Munster–Settlement of Ulster–Difference of creed added to other causes of discord–Subsequent contests assume a sectarian character —No serious effort made to convert the Irish to the reformed faith— Degrading effects of the penal laws—These laws not strictly enforced —Their relaxation at various periods—Forty-shilling freeholders— Peculiarities in the industrial and social character of Ulster and Leinster as compared with Connaught and Munster.
THE natural features of Ireland are peculiar. An extensive limestone plain occupies the central districts, while the mountains lie in various groups near the sea. The generally tame character of the eastern shores, affording few good ports, contrasts strongly with the bold rocky headlands, stretching far into the Atlantic, and the numerous islands B
which stud the western coast, whose deep and landlocked bays form many safe and commodious harbours. The wild mountain scenery of the western counties is diversified by many lakes, which discharge their waters by short and rapid rivers, offering great facilities of water power; while the drainage of the inland counties is chiefly effected by the Shannon. This great river swells out into several extensive lakes, and finally empties itself into the Atlantic by a broad and deep estuary. A considerable portion of this limestone district is occupied by deep wet bogs, which are yet sufficiently elevated for drainage; but by far the greater part is covered with a light but very fertile soil, producing good crops of corn, and affording excellent pasturage. The sides and bases of the mountains, though partly covered with bogs, support large numbers of cattle and sheep, for which the natural mountain pastures, favoured by the mildness of the climate, afford grazing throughout nearly the whole year. To these advantages it is a serious drawback, that its western sea-coast consists so largely of wild rock and barren mountains, which greatly interrupt the communication of the interior with the sea. Peculiar as are the natural features of the country, the character and circumstances of its inhabitants are yet more extraordinary and diversified. It possesses a fertile soil, and a climate of almost unequalled mildness. Its rivers and the ocean around it teem with fish. Many of these rivers are navigable for miles inland, while others offer water-power in immediate proximity to the sea. But this fertile soil is ill-cultivated ; these fisheries are neglected ; the navigable rivers bear few vessels on their bosom ; and the rapid current, which might have been made available for various purposes of profitable industry, runs neglected to the ocean. The inhabitants, taken individually, are active and intelligent, fertile in resources, full of hope, kind to their neighbours, affectionate and faithful in the domestic relations of life; yet they make slow progress in civilization. The time is wasted in party dissensions, which, well employed, might have advanced the prosperity of all. The rich in many cases neglect and oppress the poor, who return their oppression by servility and hatred ; and too often by deeds of cold-blooded violence, which are of such frequent occurrence, that they are scarcely regarded, until some outrage of peculiar atrocity fixes the public attention for a time. It is a land of strong contrasts. The splendid mansion looks down on wretched hovels, where a single room, perhaps without window or chimney, lodges the numerous family of the peasant. The luxury of